St. Louis played an important role in the birth of Free Methodism. Denominational founder B.T. Roberts traveled to St. Louis in 1859 to meet a group of 150 people who left the Methodist Episcopal Church. The group took a courageous stand against slavery despite being located in Missouri, a slave state.
Free Methodists had a strong presence in St. Louis for many decades, but the denomination’s influence declined in recent years. Three years ago, the lone Free Methodist congregation in St. Louis was the Lighthouse Chinese Free Methodist Church. Its mother congregation, the Lighthouse Free Methodist Church, had ceased a longtime ministry at 1218 Tower Grove Ave.
Then Javier and Gloelma Quintana, a husband-and-wife ministry team, approached the Gateway Conference about using the Lighthouse building.
“They said, ‘You have a church building. We have a dream. Would you allow us to meet?’” recalled Gateway Conference Superintendent Ben Tolly in June at the conference’s leadership summit. “We said, ‘Yeah, we would allow you to meet,’ and after we got to know them a little bit more, we said, ‘We’ll not only allow you to meet, but how about we partner with you?’”
The Quintanas were impressed with the conference’s openness.
“I know that takes a lot for a big group to say, ‘There’s a building. Just get in there,” Pastor Gloelma Quintana told leadership summit participants. “You just trusted us without knowing who we were, and we’re really grateful for that.”
The Gateway Conference and the congregation began to learn more about each other, and both groups liked what they learned.
“We started a journey with Javier and Glo, and it was a courtship” said Tolly, who served at the time across the Mississippi River as the lead pastor of the Bridge Free Methodist Church in Glen Carbon, Illinois. “[Previous] Superintendent Lucia [Delamarter] began it and started getting me involved in it, and, each year, we saw the spirit of this new work become quite evident, and we got excited about what the possibilities could be.”
With assistance from Mid-America Conference Superintendent Jeff Johnson, Gateway leaders worked with the Quintanas and members of their congregation to explore whether the congregation’s beliefs matched Free Methodist theology.
Pastor Javier Quintana said he knew he had found a home in the Free Methodist Church when he read the denomination’s mission “to love God, love people and make disciples.”
“When I saw that part, I said, ‘Maybe I don’t need to go further than that, because this is the one thing that we’re looking for — to show His love through our lives,” he said.
During the leadership summit, the Gateway Conference welcomed Ministerio Apostolico Plantio del Señor (MAPS) as a Free Methodist fellowship. MAPS worship dancers participated in worship at the summit. The previous week, 43 MAPS members voted to affiliate with the Free Methodist Church, and Tolly said that the Quintanas baptized 15 people the previous night in their backyard swimming pool.
“I feel so thankful to God that He gave me the opportunity to be part of this family,” Javier Quintana said.
The family already has benefited from its new members. The nearby Solid Rock Free Methodist Church in Pontoon Beach, Illinois, recently canceled a Sunday morning service to join the MAPS worship service in St. Louis. The two congregations are developing a partnership to reach the growing Hispanic population on the Illinois side of the St. Louis area.2